With marketing moving increasingly online, a company’s website has become, above all, the quintessential brand ambassador for the company. The way the company website speaks to the visitor (a prospect) goes a long way in convincing them in becoming your customer. For a startup in its early stage when it does not have credible references, lot of icons of existing customers that it can tout, the website becomes paramount.
A mid-stage software startup that I have been advising was planning their website and asked me for some advice. Here is what I drafted as a rough template for their website. Thought it might be useful for other companies thinking about their website.
Note: It is going to be a long page but I hope you will find it useful.
While there is no standards as to what technology should be used for building your website, conventional wisdom is to use to use something that gives you more for less effort. WordPress is fantastic platform for building a website. Given the other things like blog, social engagement, newsletter, forms and more importantly SEO etc that you will need on the site, WordPress should be your first (and only) consideration. If philosophically you think Drupal, Joomla can do the job, you will not that wrong. If someone recommends that you build a website from scratch then run as far as possible from that person and look for someone smarter.
A typical minimal website structure should look like this.
You can always add more things to it as necessary. I will go into detail about each section and explain the necessary ingredients of each of those pages.
The home page should clearly articulate the message in a crisp way. Don’t make it wordy as people don’t read and figure out your value proposition. Make it pictorial and easy to understand. Cap that off with a clear Call to Action to get the users to signup or download your product. The page should have at the most one or two things that the visitor should be expected to understand. Anything more than that increases the risk of losing your prospect.
About page is the place where you demonstrate the passion that drove you to build this company. Use this page to share the following
- The genesis of the company – as to how you came across the problem and were bothered about it and seeing that no one was solving it you got down to solving it.
- Briefly talk about the founders and how they shared the common passion for this problem space and how the founding team got assembled.
- Drive home the mission of the company and how the company would operate. Things like “Customers will always come first…” and “Don’t be evil…” messages that company stands by should make up the about page.
- Don’t miss the opportunity to make a Call To Action on this page asking the reader to engage with you by either signing up/downloading for your app or reaching out to your customer engagement team.
- End the page with links to the contact page and requesting readers to engage with you on the social platforms like Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn.
I think Leadership page is where you build trust with the reader. The reader/prospect, after going through your product/service offering details looks at the Leadership page, they are essentially looking to see who is standing behind this service. Use the leadership page to demonstrate that you have all the ducks lined up. Here are some key guidelines for listing executive profiles
- Each profile of the leader clearly talks to what they do in the company and what they are responsible for. If you are a product company let the profile show why they have done in the product space. All else like their other business interests should just be supplementary and if not required be omitted. Remember it is not a resume of the leader. It is their role in this company that needs to highlighted with a brief on their past credentials.
- Every profile name their should have a role they play in the company. CEO, VP of Marketing, VP of Engineering, CFO and CTO etc. In the absence of a specific person for that role, it needs to be clear that someone listed is responsible for those roles. Make sure each profile includes photos of the leaders, links to learn more about them through their LinkedIn profile etc. I would even enlist their email contact information for people to reach out. Give them more reasons to start a conversation with you.
- Have separate sections to list the Leaders of the company and Board of Directors. Customers will be first interested in the leaders of the company and then in Investors and Board of Directors.
In the current age having a blog where you interact with your stakeholders is paramount. A blog will allow you to share your thought leadership, company vision in a non-marketing-speak way. All top executives (CEO, CTO, Marketing) and other customer facing execs should blog. Blogs also provide the best way to build brand equity from readers and search engine perspective. Most companies struggle to create new content all the time. But it can be easily done if you follow these ideas. Here are some ideas for creating fresh content for your blog
- Information on Industry Events that you are hosting/participating in like webinar, tradeshow, user-appreciation event, free training etc
- Thought leadership on the challenges faced by companies in the space (not product speak)
- Customer case studies (preferably from the horse’s mouth via an interview)
- Tip/Tricks, Best Practices in using the product to generate the best value out of the investment in your product – keep generating day-in-a-life of your product user. Don’t publish product documentation or their fragments. Videos are better than text posts.
- Integration scenarios between product and other industry leading products (this will be lead generation for services and partners)
- Get partners to blog on their experiences in integration/selling your solution and lessons learnt.
- Sharing new BIG hire that company made. Ideally make a video introduction.
- Sharing any acquisition that company made and how it will help customers
- Product Roadmap – high level with ideas with business motivation behind them.
- Respond to other bloggers, tech news sites that make references to your product, company, execs. Good or bad. In case of bad, you better do it in a timely manner rather than let it fester on the internet.
For more ideas on what goes into the blog checkout my blogpost – Online Marketing Anti-Pattern #2: Tis just another PR outlet
Press and News
This is one of the most underutilized parts of the site in most companies. Companies think having a Press Release with Businesswire or using some PR agency only constitutes press and leave this page blank. Here are some ideas
- Every month you should plan have one press release – no you don’t need to pay for it. You just format in the way you would for a PR agency (internet has free templates galore) and publish it albeit to your own site alone. The idea here is to show activity in the company and give content to lot of PR aggregators who harvest PR content from sites around the world.
- PR need not be some BIG event that happened in the company. Anything of moderate importance can be worthy of PR. Every new customer acquisition might not need you spending 500 dollars and running a Press Release through an agency. Just do a Press Release on your site.
- Any conference where one of the execs spoke is a Press Release or your executive being quoted is worthy of PR.
- Same rules applies here as PR. Every news item like a reference on a blog, tech news site about the product, company, executive, partner is a news item that can be linked on this site.
- To build a critical mass of news items reach out to those very sites to give an exclusive or interview. It is a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours relationship. More links to your site = more google juice.
REMEMBER !! No news is not good news in the world of marketing and technology companies. Conversely, amplifying nuggets of what is going on with the company always demonstrates the “happening” company.
Give people ample ways to reach you. Here are the common ways to allow them reach you
- Direct telephone number
- Create a form to send emails to you rather than specifying email address. Provide drop down of different reasons people might want to reach you.
- Twitter handle is another way to send you message
- Facebook and LinkedIn pages are other ways to get them to reach you but for these channels you also need to have more bandwidth to closely manage those interactions.
Products page should be broken into specific solutions so the message can be simple and crystal. We might start with one product. Here is the general structure of each page
<Product P> helps you increase revenue by …….. A screenshot of application or picture of people doing the activity that product helps with or process diagram
Using <Product P> you will be able to do
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is…..
- How is ….
- Where is ….
Quotes from customers
- “<Product> has helped us tremendously to optimize our business strategy ….” – Jon Adams, Chief Financial Officer, Big Company Inc
- “We were struggling with …. challenges …. and then we decided to implement <Product> and the results have been outstanding” – General Manager GE Medical.
Download the whitepaper that highlights to learn more about how <Product P> can help increase revenue.
Each Service should have a separate page and provide details of the service and the why, when, how to avail of that service.
<Service S> is geared toward organizations that need … and achieve that …. A screenshot of swimlanes, chevrons or picture of people who might need the help with the service or process diagram that depicts the service
What can you expect as part of the <Service S>?
Frequently Asked Questions
- What is…..
- How is ….
- Where is ….
Quotes from customers
- “<Service> has helped us tremendously to optimize our business strategy ….” – Jon Adams, Chief Financial Officer, Big Company Inc”
- “We were struggling with …. challenges …. and then we decided to implement <Product> and the with their <Service> we have been able to achieve …” – General Manager GE Medical.
Download the datasheet that shows the value delivered by <Service S>
Views of collage of icons of customers by Product, Geography
- Technology Partnership
Brief description of what kind of partnerships your company will be interested in. What companies can expect to receive as part of the partnership.
- Services Partnership
Brief description of the various services you will partner on. What companies can expect to receive as part of the partnership.
- Product Integration
Brief description of what kind of partnerships your company will participate in. What companies can expect to receive as part of the partnership.
- VAR Partnership
Brief description of what kind of partnerships your company will be seeking and what companies can expect to receive as part of the partnership.